The party bought six hundred two-year-old steers, and my new-found friend, the banker, invited me to assist in the receiving. My knowledge of range cattle was a decided advantage to the buyers, who no doubt were good farmers, yet were sadly handicapped when given pick and choice from a Texas herd and confined to ages. I cut, counted, and received the steers, my work giving such satisfaction that the party offered to pay me for my services. It was but a neighborly act, unworthy of recompense, yet I won the lasting regard of the banker in protecting the interests of his customers. The upshot of the acquaintance was that we met in town that evening and had a few drinks together. Neither one ever made any inquiry of the other’s past or antecedents, both seeming to be satisfied with a soldier’s acquaintance. At the final parting, I gave him my name and address and invited him to visit me, promising that we would buy a herd of cattle together and drive them up the trail the following spring. He accepted the invitation with a hearty grasp of the hand, and the simple promise “I’ll come.” Those words were the beginning of a partnership which lasted eighteen years, and a friendship that death alone will terminate.
The Indian contractor returned on time, and the next day I started home with Daugherty’s outfit. And on the way, as if I were pursued by some unrelenting Nemesis, two of my horses, with others, were stolen by the Indians one night when we were encamped near Red River. We trailed them westward nearly fifty miles, but, on being satisfied they were traveling night and day, turned back and continued our journey. I reached home with sixteen horses, which for years afterwards, among my hands and neighbors, were pointed out as Anthony’s thousand-dollar cow-ponies. There is no denying the fact that I keenly felt the loss of my money, as it crippled me in my business, while my ranch expenses, amounting to over one thousand dollars, were unpaid. I was rich in unsalable cattle, owned a thirty-two-thousand-acre ranch, saddle horses galore, and was in debt. My wife’s trunk was half full of land scrip, and to have admitted the fact would only have invited ridicule. But my tuition was paid, and all I asked was a chance, for I knew the ropes in handling range cattle. Yet this was the second time that I had lost my money and I began to doubt myself. “You stick to cows,” said Charlie Goodnight to me that winter, “and they’ll bring you out on top some day. I thought I saw something in you when you first went to work for Loving and me. Reed, if you’ll just imbibe a little caution with your energy, you’ll make a fortune out of cattle yet.”
THE PANIC OF ’73